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The Waikato is one of the country’s richest agricultural areas, where the eponymous river – the longest in the country – snakes its way through a landscape of green rolling hills and fields. The Waikato, the homeland of the Tainui people – one of the largest tribes in the land – is rich in Maori history, as well as being home to the current Maori queen and head of state. The first Maori king was elected here in 1858 and the subsequent formation of the Maori King Movement, in direct opposition to rule under the British monarchy, led to much bloodshed. After almost a year of fierce battles and confrontation the British finally quashed the Kingites, who fled to southern Waikato, which is now also known as King Country. Today, peace reigns, but the memory lives on.Waikato also boasts New Zealand’s fourth largest city, Hamilton, which despite being an unremarkable commercial centre, is increasingly seen as an alternative base to Auckland. Although not a major tourist destination, the Waikato is a region with considerable diversity from the famous surf beaches on its coast to the jewel in the crown of the King Country, the Waitomo District – a wonderland of limestone caves and subterranean activities that deservedly make it one of the North Island’s premier tourist attractions. Also of note, since the abiding success of the film Lord of the Rings, is the small agricultural town of Matamata, where local farmland was used to create the set of ‘Hobbiton’, home of Frodo and friends. Although very little remains, it is still the first stop on the ‘tour of homage’ for Lord of the Rings fanatics.